Your Struggle with Sin & the Pain of Sanctification: Spiritual Molting
For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: in whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead, (Colossians 2:9-12, KJV).
I had a conversation with a young woman not long ago who was frustrated with feelings of disgust over her own sin and shortcomings. She confessed to asking God to transform her into His image and that she would do whatever was necessary to cooperate with Him. What directly followed was an intense battle with her flesh and sin-nature that left her… well, perfectly miserable. She suddenly found things coming to the surface that she was not aware of before. She confessed to feeling “strange”, “weird”, and “frustrated” with herself because she hated what she saw in herself, yet felt no immediate power to change. The things she struggled to overcome within were deeply entrenched, making her uncomfortable and causing her grief.
After a long talk with her, she finally understood what was happening. She was experiencing the very real pain of what I call “spiritual molting” which is the following:
1.) Crucifixion (death) of the flesh by the power of Christ (see Galatians 2:20-21).
2.) The war between the Holy Spirit and our flesh, which is constant in the life of the believer (see Galatians 5:14-25).
3.) The mind and heart of Christ which no longer left her at ease or comfortable with living or engaging in the sin nature (see Romans 6-8).
These are all hallmark signs and symptoms of a deep and genuine work of sanctification. Get ready to shed your ‘skin’. The only answer to overcoming sin for those who follow Christ is a crucifixion of the flesh wherein the Holy Spirit brings us to repentance and becomes the One who lives through us. Only then are we transformed into Christ’s image.
This deep transformative process can be hard and extraordinarily painful. Mind you — it is most certainly a process, especially when sin patterns, beliefs, habits and traits are so deeply entrenched in us and our generational backgrounds. Patience is necessary, and with that patience we are rewarded as we persevere in Christ (see James 1:12 and Romans 5:1-6).
This young lady’s earnest desire was to be close to Jesus, to be more like Him, to walk in Him, and for Him to be able to use her as He willed. These are all godly requests that can only be borne of the Holy Spirit, yet they also require a very real death to self. Christ made it plain that we cannot be His disciple unless we are willing to take up our cross daily and follow Him. That is a picture of following in His steps and allowing a crucifixion so His resurrection power can be manifest in us. Every true believer encounters this, but the journey and process looks different for us all. We each have a unique relationship with Christ, and this work of sanctification is a deep and intimate one that only He can perform. Paul calls it the circumcision without hands.
I had to reassure this precious young woman that her miserable state was one that proved the validity of her sanctification in Christ. When she was in the world and without Christ her sin did not bother her. In fact, she never was aware of some of the subtleties Christ was now revealing. Only when we are for Christ and His righteousness do we hold such disdain and contempt for our own sin. Only when we are yielded to Him do we experience the grief and pang of our own sin that becomes so distasteful and miserable. She was not yet at the point of overcoming these areas. Thoughts plagued her and haunted her daily, which she knew were wrong. She still struggled with wrong motivations that she termed were “mean-spirited” that she recognized as being part of her old nature. These were things that grieved her, yet were still operating. Such is evidence that her heart was Christ’s although her old nature was still operating. But she was definitely in the fight of faith. She was in the refiner’s fire where Christ was turning up the heat and things were beginning to come to the surface where they could be removed and burned away.
I encouraged her to press on and press in, and allow Christ to perform the intimate work in her that He had begun. He was actually answering her prayers. Sometimes what He does is so deep and complex it’s very hard for us to understand or explain. It’s a very private and intimate journey with Him that continues throughout our personal lives. Each season has it’s own distinct molting. As we mature and grow in Him we change accordingly. There is always more work to do. We are continually being perfected in Him. Rarely do we ever experience just one “spiritual molting” in our lives. There are usually several, or perhaps even many.
If you are experiencing pain in your life due to sin that you just can’t stand — you are likely undergoing a deep sanctification process by the Spirit of God. You’re shedding your flesh. You are experiencing the “spiritual molting” that can only happen by the power of the Holy Spirit who is transforming you into Christ’s image. Your misery and constant discomfort or grief over your sin is very much a valid sign that you are dying to self and experiencing the transformation process that sanctification brings into the life of every believer.
Take heart and be very encouraged! You are being changed from glory to glory. As you surrender to Him you will find that He completes the work which He begun, and you will eventually be free from that sin which so entangles you. In fact, those areas that once represented weakness can be turned into areas of extraordinary strength!
Now the LORD is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the LORD is, there is liberty. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the LORD, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the LORD, (2 Corinthians 3:17-18, KJV).
Once this young woman understood the process, it enabled her to cooperate with God toward the completion of this tranformative work in her life! Christ was answering her prayers! If you want to be more like Him and you want to be used of Him, He will answer your prayers as well.
For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? (Romans 8:29-32, KJV).
According to his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust, (2 Peter 1:3-4, KJV).
Just know that there’s only one way to be transformed into Christ’s image: the very real pain and process of sanctification. Spiritual molting is not easy, but the rewards are glorious! Keep the faith and press into Him. He’s already made abundant provision, and the victory is yours!
Cheers & Shalom,